Will the self-driving cars come to us in 2020?

city-1284400_640Since last year, the progress of development of self-driving cars are accelerated rapidly.  When I wrote about it last year, someone may not be convinced that the self-driving cars come true. But now no one can doubt about self-driving cars anymore. The problem is when it comes in front of us.  I would like to consider several key points to develop the technology of self-driving cars.

 

1.Data from experiments

It is key to develop self-driving car effectively. Because self-driving cars need artificial intelligence in it to drive cars by themselves without human interventions. As you know, artificial intelligence looks like our brains.  When we are born, our brain is almost empty. But as we grow, we can learn many things through our experiences.  This is the same for artificial intelligence. It needs massive amounts of data to learn. Recently, Google and  Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV announced that they cooperate to enhance development of self-driving cars. According to the article on Bloomberg, “The carmaker plans to develop about 100 self-driving prototypes based on the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid-powered minivan that will be used by Google to test its self-driving technology.”(1)  The more cars are used in the experiments, the more data they can obtain. Therefore, it enables Google to accelerate to develop self-driving cars more rapidly.

 

2. Algorithm of artificial intelligence

With data from experiments, artificial intelligence will be more sophisticated.  The algorithms of artificial intelligence, which are called “Deep Learning” should be more effective from now.  Because driving cars generates sequences of data and need sequential decision making processes, such as stop, go, turn right, accelerate, and so on,  we need algorithms which can handle these situations. In my view, the combination of deep learning and reinforcement learning can be useful to do that.  This kind of technologies is developed in research centers, such as Google DeepMind which is famous for the artificial intelligence Go player. It says this technology can be used for robotics, medical research and economics.  So why not for self-driving cars?

 

3. Interactions with human drivers

It seems to be very difficult to decide who is responsible for driving cars.  Initially, self-driving cars might appear with the handle and brakes. It means that human can intervene the operations of self-driving cars. When accidents happen,  who is responsible?  Human or machines?  When self-driving cars without handle and brakes are available,  machines are responsible as human can not control cars anymore. So the machines are 100% responsible for accidents. It is very difficult to decide which is better, self-driving cars with and without handle and breaks. It depends on the development of technologies and regulations.

 

Impact on society is huge when self-driving cars are introduced to us.  Bus, Taxi, Track could be replaced with self-driving cars.  Not only drivers but also road maintenance  companies, car insurance companies, roadside shops, traffic light makers, railway companies, highway running companies,  car maintenance companies and car parking providers are also heavily impacted. Government should consider how we can implement self-driving cars to our societies effectively. I do not think we have spare time to consider it. Let us start it today!

 

(1) http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-03/fiat-google-said-to-plan-partnership-on-self-driving-minivans

 

Note: Toshifumi Kuga’s opinions and analyses are personal views and are intended to be for informational purposes and general interest only and should not be construed as individual investment advice or solicitation to buy, sell or hold any security or to adopt any investment strategy.  The information in this article is rendered as at publication date and may change without notice and it is not intended as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding any country, region market or investment.

Data from third-party sources may have been used in the preparation of this material and I, Author of the article has not independently verified, validated such data. I accept no liability whatsoever for any loss arising from the use of this information and relies upon the comments, opinions and analyses in the material is at the sole discretion of the user. 

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Revolution or evolution? Who wins, Google or Toyota in 2025?

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Google is a big IT company and Toyota is a giant of automobile industries. They may be categorized in different industries.  However, they must be in tight competition in future because both of them will provide automobiles with artificial intelligence (AI).  Let us consider this competition here.  On 4 Sep, 2015,  Toyota announced that it  collaborates with MIT and Stanford University to develop artificial intelligence to be used in automobiles  and robotics(1).  Toyota thinks drivers can be supported by AI effectively. On the other hand, Google has been developing “self-driving car”, which needs no human  interventions. It seems that Google hired John Krafcik, a car industry veteran who previously led Hyundai’s business in the U.S  to work at Google self-driving car project (2).  It seems that the competition between Google and Toyota has already started.

 

1  Definition of “automobile”

Although both of them use the term of “car”,  each “car” is a little different from each other. According to Toyota, drivers should control their car while AI can support and assist drivers.  On the other hand,  Google promotes self-driving cars, which can drive without human interventions.  The purpose of each “automobile” is the same. It is the transportation from place A to place B.  However, each automobile looks completely different. Toyota AI automobiles might look the same as ordinal automobiles.  They have a steering wheel, accel and brake pedal. On the other hand, Google self-driving cars have no steering wheel, no accel and brake pedal. They may be more compact than ordinal automobiles.

 

2  Self-driving car technologies and human centric technologies

Technologies of each “automobile” are similar.  Both use state of the art technology “Artificial intelligence”.  But the aim of each is a little different.  It means that “Support” vs. “Control”.  I remembered Toyota used “Fun to drive” as a corporate statement in the latter half of 1980s.   Driving is fun because drivers can control cars by themselves. And Toyota uses the terms of ” human centric technologies”.  In my view,  Toyota thinks AI exists to support drivers and it is important to keep a good relationship between human and AI while human should play a major role in driving.  On the other hand,  Google thinking is simple. AI can control automobiles better than human. That is it!

 

3  Revolution or evolution?

The self-driving car is completely new for us in our daily lives. So it sounds revolutionary.  On the other hand, Toyota AI car still needs driver and AI can assist drivers. So it sounds an evolution to me.  Evolution, however, is not always easier than revolution. Because Toyota “human centric technologies” should include “human being” as a major part of the system. According to the video on Toyota websites, Toyota focus on collaboration between human and artificial intelligence. Therefore, human behavior should be analyzed and predicted so that AI knows when and how AI intervenes control of the automobile. If it is not accurate,  this system does not work effectively.  It seems to be more difficult than the system without human intervention is.  AI should learn not only automobile behavior, but drivers’ behavior.  As long as drivers take control automobiles, it is necessary and critically important for automobiles with AI.

 

 

Which automobile do you like better?  The self-driving car is OK for you?  Consumers may have different opinions by country. For example, ASEAN countries, including Malaysia are in the time of motorizations.  Therefore, many consumers want to own and drive their cars by themselves. In addition to that,  the train systems are not so convenient yet in most of the regions so they need their own cars anyway.  On the other hand,  in Japan, consumers are not so enthusiastic in owning cars anymore, especially for younger generations.  For example, in 1980s, Japanese automobile companies produced many sports cars, which were stylish and reasonable for young consumers. They were very popular at that time. Now there are some because sports car is not so popular for younger generations in Japan anymore. In additions to that, in the big cities of Japan such as Tokyo and Osaka,  there are a lot of train networks so there is no need to own cars in daily lives.  Therefore Japanese consumers may be more likely to accept self-driving cars. I am sure each country should consider regulations about automobiles with AI carefully based on the needs and  preferences of the people.

No one knows who wins Google or Toyota In 2025. But I am sure we need a lot of discussions about regulations, insurance, public transportation planning, jobs, and so on. I would like to keep watching it going forward.

 

 

 

Source

1. Toyota Establishes Collaborative Research Centers with MIT and Stanford to Accelerate Artificial Intelligence Research,  website of Totoya motor, 4, September 2015

http://newsroom.toyota.co.jp/en/detail/9233109/

 

2.  Yes, true: I’m joining the Google Self-Driving Car project in late September. 13, September 2015, Twitter of John Krafcik

https://twitter.com/johnkrafcik?lang=en

 

3. Google Self-Driving Car Project

http://www.google.com/selfdrivingcar/

 

Note: Toshifumi Kuga’s opinions and analyses are personal views and are intended to be for informational purposes and general interest only and should not be construed as individual investment advice or solicitation to buy, sell or hold any security or to adopt any investment strategy.  The information in this article is rendered as at publication date and may change without notice and it is not intended as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding any country, region market or investment.

Data from third-party sources may have been used in the preparation of this material and I, Author of the article has not independently verified, validated such data. I accept no liability whatsoever for any loss arising from the use of this information and relies upon the comments, opinions and analyses in the material is at the sole discretion of the user. 

When are self-driving cars available in Asia? We should re-consider regulations about it.

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Last year I learned “machine learning” on coursera and found that it is very useful to develop self-driving car.  This course was created in 2011.  Since then,  there has been much progress in self-driving cars. Last week I found two articles on self-driving cars. One is self-driving cars by google and the other is an autonomous truck. Let us see what they are and consider the impacts of these cars when they are available to us.

 

1. Self-driving cars

This is one the most aggressive project of self-driving cars because the goal of the project is cars without driver intervention. According to Google website, it says”a few of the prototype vehicles we’ve created will leave the test track and hit the familiar roads of Mountain View, Calif., with our safety divers aboard.”.  It looks so small and cute. However, with computers and sensors, it can run without intervention by humans. I imagine machine learning is used to control self-driving cars as I learned it on coursera before. Because the machine can “learn” new things from data, the more self-driving cars run, the safer and more sophisticated they become. Therefore collecting many data on self-driving cars is critically important.  I wonder when they can drive without drivers in future.

 

2. Autonomous truck

The other is autonomous trucks.  According to Bloomberg, “Regulatory and technological obstacles may hold back the driverless car for decades. But one of the first driverless semi-trucks is already driving, legally, on the highways of Nevada.” This is a truck which can be controlled on highways. But in difficult tasks such as driving in parking lots, human should take over and drive them. It looks like “a truck, which is supported by computers”.  Unlike self-driving cars by google, this truck needs human drivers. But it must be helpful for truck drivers when they drive on highways for long time.

 

3. What is needed to promote self-driving cars?

Firstly, we need to consider regulations about how self-driving cars are allowed to run in public. Because the more data is available, the more sophisticated self-driving cars become. In order to accelerate development of self-driving cars,  data is like “fuel” to develop computers in order to control cars. Therefore regulations are very important to allow self-driving cars to run in the real world  in order to collect data.

 

4. What are the impacts to our society?

In aging societies such as Japan,  older people sometimes feel difficulties to drive a car to go to hospitals or shopping malls. In such a case, the self-driving car is one of the solutions for the problem.  With self-driving cars, senior personnel can go anywhere they want without driving.  In the emerging countries like Asean,  a lot of trucks are needed to prepare the infrastructures and lifelines all over the countries. So it is very useful when self-driving trucks are permitted to run across country borders.  Therefore, regulations should be considered as a region rather than country by country.

In the long run, we should prepare the shift from current situations to a digital economy. It means that some of jobs might be replaced by computers with machine learning.  The more self-driving cars are available, the less truck drivers and taxi drivers are needed. Andrew Ng, the famous researcher of machine learning,  talked about this shift on the article.  “A midrange challenge might be truck-driving. Truck drivers do very similar things day after day, so computers are trying to do that too.”

 

 

No one knows exactly when self-driving cars are available in public. It does not look long-term future as I look at the development of technologies.  We may have a lesson of self-driving cars.   Andrew Ng says in the article, “Computers enhanced by machine learning are eliminating jobs long done by humans. The trend is only accelerating.”

What do you think?